SINGAPORE - Global talent who come and contribute to Singapore’s economy are still guests in the Republic, and they have to respect Singapore’s laws, culture and their local colleagues, said a Nominated MP on Monday.
This reciprocity has to be part of the strategy to attract global talent, in addition to the practical aspects of the policy to shore up economic competitiveness, said Mr Raj Joshua Thomas.
He was speaking in Parliament on Singapore’s global talent strategy.
A winning global talent strategy must address both the practical and emotive aspects because Singapore is not a corporation but a country where local workers are citizens who call Singapore home, he said.
To ensure global talent develop those three forms of respect, Mr Thomas suggested that all foreigners issued work passes be made to attend a compulsory initiation programme administered by their employers.
The curriculum and guidelines for the programme, he added, could be designed by the National Integration Council, which was set up in 2009 to help the Government, community and private sector jointly foster integration.
Mr Thomas stressed the need to instil respect for Singapore’s laws among foreigners, as Singaporeans get “particularly inflamed” over incidents of foreigners flouting laws because Singaporeans are law-abiding and expect others to also be likewise.
He cited the public furore that arose over foreigners who defied circuit breaker measures in 2020 as an example.
He added: “Although (these) incidents have nothing to do with global talent policies, commentators are always very quick to ask what they are employed as in Singapore and what are the consequences of them flouting the law.
“These flashpoints often lead to a backlash against our global talent policies.”
Even as Singaporeans seek to help foreigners settle in, expatriates should also respect Singapore’s culture by adapting to local norms that may differ from those in their home countries, such as respecting personal space, said Mr Thomas.
As for showing respect for Singaporeans’ capabilities, he said a culture of considering local talent first must be nurtured among both locals and foreigners with hiring responsibilities.
“We expend massive resources to educate, train, retrain our people, and we have become one of the most highly skilled workforces in the globe... (So we) must not allow our local workers to be overlooked due to preferences other than merit.”
In his 20-minute speech, Mr Thomas also spoke about the need to groom local talent willing to gain overseas exposure and how a sharper distinction between work passes and immigration could be made by emphasising that global talent are here to fill skill and labour gaps.
“The initial impetus should not be about immigration, bolstering our population numbers or immediately settling in as new residents.”
In his response, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said it is important to increase support for policies that secure Singapore’s future by successfully bringing in foreign talent and developing local talent who can work with one another.
To encourage local talent to have a global mindset, the Ministry of Manpower will work with the Ministry of Education to explore cultivating it from an earlier age, beyond existing overseas exchange and internship schemes at institutes of higher education.
“We provide the necessary tools, at every step of the way, for locals to strengthen their own capabilities,” said Dr Tan, citing investments into education, reskilling and social support.
Nonetheless, he said, developing this mindset is not something that the Government can do alone and there are encouraging signs that employers are increasingly devoting resources to nurture young local talent.
But he added: “It requires our workforce to be willing to learn, to be ambitious, to have the hunger to succeed and be tenacious to overcome challenges.”